Freedom of Information documents obtained by Lock the Gate Alliance show that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS) could have a significant impact on water resources.
A submission from the department states unequivocally that 'The department considers the proposed action could have a significant impact(s) on a water resource, in relation to coal seam gas development and large coal development, protected under the EPBC Act'.
Despite that advice, the Department of Environment and Energy went ahead and ruled the NGWS was not likely to have a significant impact on water resources and an environmental impact assessment was not required.
A second FOI document shows Geoscience Australia found that Adani failed to consider Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems in their referral on the NGWS, despite a large number of GDEs being mapped in the project disturbance area.
Ellie Smith, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Alliance said: “These documents reveal Adani has been given a free run to dodge crucial water assessments against the advice of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
“This raises massive questions over the decision by the Department of Environment last month to allow Adani to take 12.5 billion litres of river water to run their mine, without any environmental impact assessment.
“What is the point of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources making a submission if it can just be completely ignored?
“We’re calling for the Minister for Environment to step in now, in light of these documents, and reverse the decision on the North Galilee Water Scheme and instead require a full environmental impact assessment in light of this new information.
“We also want to see an urgent inquiry into how and why it is that advice from these two crucial agencies was effectively ignored,” she said.
Lock the Gate was initially refused access to these documents under FOI by the DoEE, but submitted an internal review of that decision, which led to the documents being released.
Principal Solicitor of EDOQ, Sean Ryan said "These new documents raise serious questions as to why the water impacts of this project are not being thoroughly assessed under federal laws.
“The water trigger contained in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was specifically designed to deal with actions involving large coal mining projects with a significant impact on a water resource.
“It’s there to protect Australia’s precious water resources, and make sure that coal projects that impact them are thoroughly assessed at a federal level.
“It is concerning that, in these circumstances, the Department of Environment and Energy has decided that the project, and its water impacts, do not require thorough assessment through an Environmental Impact Statement,” he said.
Copies of FOI documents are available here.